- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Laridae
The regal Caspian Tern is the largest tern in the world, easily recognized by its brilliant red fish-knife of a bill and deep, raspy call. Found all over the world, the Caspian favors both freshwater and saltwater environments. It feeds mostly on fish, captured in nimble aerial dives. On the nesting grounds, paired Caspian Terns perform splendid displays in the air, rising up to great heights in tandem. They migrate nocturnally, and in autumn their rolling calls are sometimes heard overhead during the night.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Caspian Terns are not rare, but they are localized in their occurrence, so it can help to use eBird to find out when they may be near you. They frequent rivers and lakes inland as well as ocean coastlines, and they often roost with flocks of gulls and other (smaller) terns. To home in on them, look for the heavy, bright-red bill and listen for the distinctive call.
- Pagaza piquirroja (Spanish)
- Sterne caspienne (French)
- Cool Facts
- The Caspian Tern got its name because early ornithologists associated it with the Caspian Sea, where the species is still fairly common.
- The burly Caspian Tern is an aggressive defender of its breeding colony—chasing predatory birds and even sometimes attacking people who venture too close.
- The world's largest breeding colony is on a small, artificial island in the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington, home to more than 6,000 breeding pairs each year.
- Learning how to fish is hard. Young Caspian Terns get fed by their parents for months after fledging, even in some cases after migrating to the wintering grounds.
- The oldest recorded Caspian Tern was at least 32 years, 1 month old when it was found in Illinois in 2018. It had been banded in Michigan in 1986. The average life span of Caspian Terns from the Great Lakes is estimated to be 12 years.